Spreading the Christmas spirit: Minnesota families collect gifts to ensure everyone gets a present

(FOX 9)

Christmas is supposed to be the season of giving. A new program to help low-income families is encouraging more people to do just that by helping spread joy this holiday season.

At Libby Stegger's home, there are plenty of presents under the tree. But some of them are Christmas wishes for children other than Steggers' four daughters.

"Christmas is a really joyful time to give and receive gifts. This was a chance to connect our kids to the spirit of giving rather than just the spirit of receiving," said Stegger.

The Steggers are sponsors in a new program called "Spread Joy" by Youthprise, where low-income families are connected to another family that goes holiday shopping to fill their Christmas wishlists.

So far, about 50 families are enrolled in the program, but the organization needs more sponsors to support another 50 families on the waiting list and reach its goal of helping 300 families.

"This is a tough time dealing with the pandemic and the weather and everything going on, and it's really great to bring families some joy during this season. This is an opportunity to do this," said Marcus Pope, Vice-President of Youthprise.

Spread Joy is an offshoot of the Minnesota Afterschool Advance program that helps low-income families pay for things like tutoring and music and driving and lessons through the state's K-12 Education Tax Credit.

The program loans families who earn less than $33,500 a year up to $1000 for educational services, so they don't have to put up the money themselves and wait to be reimbursed.

"The unfortunate thing about Minnesota is we have huge disparities. Young people of color are more likely to be disproportionately poor than white families. So this helps people who are impacted by our nation-leading disparities in MN," said Pope.

The Steggers hope to spread some joy this holiday season teaches their children a lesson that will last a lifetime.

"My hope is that the gifts keep on giving and growing to be a more giving community and leaning into that Minnesota legacy of being a community that supports each other and supports our neighbors," said Stegger.